10 tips to get your kids to eat their vegetables
There are so many benefits from eating enough veggies - for both adults and kids but try telling a tantruming kid that!
Encouraging kids to eat and enjoy their veggies can be tough work, on top of the already never-ending demands of being a parent. It can be so disheartening when kids refuse to even try the veggies on their plate that you spent time and energy preparing.
Hopefully, this article will give you some practical suggestions on ways to encourage your kids to eat (and actually enjoy!) more veggies.
First, let's look at how many vegetables kids actually need to eat each day, and what constitutes one serving of veggies.
How many veggies do kids need each day?
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, it’s recommended that:
- 2-3 years olds have 2.5 servings of veggies a day
- 4.5 servings is recommended for kids aged 4-8
- kids nine and over should ideally have five or more servings of vegetables every day
That might sound like a lot but what does that actually look like?
What is a serving of veggies?
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
- ½ cup chopped raw vegetables
- ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
- 1 medium tomato
Veggies are an important part of building a healthy diet for kids and adults. If you’re a visual learner, check out this handy food pyramid from Nutrition Australia.
How to get kids to eat veggies
1. Blitz it
Cauliflower or broccoli ‘rice’ is a novel ingredient that your kids might just love. If not, you can simply add it to sauces like bolognese along with finely chopped mushrooms, grated carrot or zucchini.
We won’t tell them there’s plenty of hidden veggies, if you don’t!
2. Mix up the cut
Zoodles can be oodles of fun for kiddies. Also, you’d be surprised how much more exciting carrot sticks or cucumber rounds are for kids when you use a crinkle knife or v-slicer attachment to chop them.
Simply cutting vegetables into different shapes can sometimes do the trick. Grab those cookie cutters out of storage to create cucumber stars and hearts - perfect for lunchboxes.
3. Add veggies to baked goods
Try making savoury muffins with loads of flavours - and veggies. Baby spinach, tomatoes, chopped broccoli, grated zucchini and carrot are easy ingredients to add to a simple, healthy muffin mix.
Top the muffin with some grated cheese to pass them off as ‘pizza’ muffins!
4. Make veggies friends with pasta
Little kids often love pasta. It’s a family favourite - so let’s make the most of it. Loading your pasta sauce with chopped tomatoes, tinned or fresh is a great way to add in flavour plus heart-healthy lycopene.
Chopped broccoli or corn added to dinosaur or alphabet pasta may be worth a shot.
5. Try some beans
Legumes and beans also count toward a serve of daily vegetables! Adding lentils to bolognese can help stretch your mince meat further while being hard to spot by little eyes.
If buying tinned beans, it’s a great idea to look for ‘no added salt’ varieties.
6. Don’t hold back on flavour
A handy question to ask yourself is: “Would I want to eat that vegetable like that?”
While we don’t want to fill our kids' stomachs with too much added sugar, unhealthy fats or salt, adding flavour to vegetables can be key.
Try adding spices like paprika or Italian herbs that won’t add salt to your little one's diet. Dips are a great way to encourage little hands to pick up more veggie sticks while a little sprinkle of cheddar cheese on grilled broccoli or cauliflower may just do the trick.
7. Sometimes less is more
It can be tempting to do but overcrowding a plate with loads of vegetables might be overwhelming for younger kids.
Try adding fewer vegetables to the plate and see if they end up eating more as a result. If they finish all the vegetables, they can always ask for more.
8. Keep mealtimes enjoyable
While you can do your best to provide healthy options on your kids' plate, it’s ultimately up to them how much they decide to eat.
Ideally, mealtimes shouldn’t turn into a fighting match. If they don’t feel like finishing all their vegetables, it’s best not to force them to finish their plate as this can create an unhealthy relationship with vegetables and food.
9. Be a veggie-eating role model
Kids aren’t the only ones struggling to get enough veggies. Only 5% of Aussie adults eat their recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
A great way to encourage kids to eat more veggies is to show them how it’s done. Add an extra serve of vegetables to your plate, talk about why you love veggies and how great they make you feel.
10. Stick with it
According to research, more than 90% of primary caregivers give their child three or five tries of a new food before giving up hope that they’ll like it.
But it seems that being persistent and continuing to expose our kids to foods they might not like at first may help them eat a wider range of food. One study suggests giving babies a chance to try a new food eight times is a good strategy before you decide they don’t like it.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board August 3, 2021